Is My Baby Hungry?
Dr. Linda: “My 5-month-old is getting up every 2-3 hours at night now even though she had been sleeping through the night. Is my baby hungry? Is that why she is waking up? Should I start feeding her baby food?”
There are two main reasons most experts recommend waiting till your baby is 6 months old before she is given solid foods:
- Young babies do not have the nervous system maturity that allows them to eat solids without choking. At some point between 4-6 months of age your baby will develop this maturity.
- Up until 6 months of age babies get everything they need, except Vitamin D, from breast milk alone and do not generally need anything extra. At 6 months they start needing more iron which can be supplied by your baby’s first solid food.
Every Baby is Unique
Having said this, I know that every child is unique, so there is not a one-size-fits-all answer.
In the above story knowing certain facts made our decision about whether to feed this baby easier:
- Some babies will be ready to eat solids earlier and will show the signs of readiness for eating solids before they are 6 months old.
- A good general rule of thumb is: If your baby is at least 4 months old and is showing at least three of the below signs of readiness, you may want to explore starting baby foods with your health care provider.
- Giving babies baby food before they are 4 months old does not generally lead to better sleeping at night, and,it increases the risk of your baby choking and inhaling the food into her lungs.
- 4-6 month olds go through a developmental stage that has them waking up every 2-3 hours at night. Most babies who have been taught how to fall asleep on their own (see previous blog) will wake up, survey their environment and then go back to sleep. Knowing this will help you avoid the mistake of feeding your baby at these awakenings and creating the need to eat at night which can be very difficult to change later.
In the above situation, I had this mom watch her baby closely over a couple of days to get really aware of what her baby was trying to tell her. Her baby was not showing signs of readiness for solids,and was not acting more hungry during the day, so, instead of feeding her baby at night, I had her focus on training her baby to fall asleep on her own so we avoided starting any sleep associations she would regret later on.
Increase the Bond
Being present and really focused on your baby in every interaction you have, will strengthen your bond, and will make it easier for your baby to teach you what she needs. You will not have to guess; she will show you.
Signs that your baby is ready to handle solid foods safely without choking:
- She can hold her head up.
- She can sit up with your support.
- She is able to push herself up from the floor with straight arms.
- When you put a spoon in her mouth she curls her tongue back instead of pushing the spoon out.
- She leans forward and opens her mouth to let you know she is hungry. She will watch you like a hawk while you eat which may make you feel a little guilty for not feeding her!
- She can sit back and close her mouth to let you know that she is full.
- She starts to wakes up at night after having slept for 6-8 hours straight for a few weeks and will not go back to sleep until you feed her.
When your baby shows any three of these signs then she is probably ready to start taking baby foods from a spoon. Discuss this with your health care provider.
You are now about to set off into a whole new world of exploration as you slowly and thoughtfully introduce your baby to the many varieties of foods that she can get to know and enjoy over time. Have fun with this!
As always, I hope you find this blog helpful.
Please post any questions or comments you may have and share this with moms who might find this helpful. How old was your baby when you started solids? What did you start with? What worked for you? Please share!
To your holistic health,